“Beauty becomes you,” Alison O’Neil’s father told her just weeks before his passing. He’d been digging in his garden — a favorite pastime — but he paused to look his daughter in the eye. “Ali,” he said, “beauty becomes you.”
In that moment, with her father’s hope, determination, and grace echoing in her ears, Alison heard the voice of God. She couldn’t know that those words would lead to a charity that would touch thousands of seniors. She couldn’t know that on the 11th anniversary of her father’s passing, she’d receive a nomination for L’Oreal Paris’ Women of Worth campaign. But she knew that moment — and those words — would never leave her.
When the idea for Beauty Becomes You first took form, Alison wanted to bring confidence to the overlooked. Simple gestures have the power to transform, to make the marginalized feel valued. When Alison attended a 2005 benefit for Senior Citizen Services in Atlanta, she saw how vital simple services were for seniors.
“We move into these places and people forget about us,” one senior admits after receiving a beauty treatment made possible by Beauty Becomes You. “[T]his made me feel important today.”
Alison noticed a forgotten spa in an unlit corner of a senior center, and created a movement that makes seniors feel beautiful, seen, and appreciated. When she launched Beauty Becomes You in 2006, they offered 3-5 beauty services to 85 participating seniors. Today the charity has provided over 5,000 seniors with 15,000 services. Not only do they give seniors meaningful human interaction as they receive manicures, facials, massage, and hair styling, they also leave them with the sensation of increased value and self-worth. Alison launched the Senior Select Seal, a guarantee that everyday products are suited to senior use, to support the Beauty Becomes You charity. This concept marks products as ‘senior friendly’ — be they personal care, kitchen utensils, or senior aids — making it easy for seniors to find products appropriate to their lifestyle and unique needs. Companies have begun tailoring their products to get the seal, creating more senior-friendly items every day.
“When I was a little girl, we moved to a senior community,” Alison remembers. “My best friends were seniors. When I was 13, something said to me, ‘you’re here to help millions of people,’ and ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that.”
Beauty has been Alison’s lifelong companion. She knows that a glowing personal appearance holds the transformative power to make people feel seen and cherished. As a child, Alison got lost in a department store. Overwhelmed and frightened, she wandered to the Estee Lauder counter, where a beauty advisor took Alison under her wing. While they waited for her parents, the woman gave Alison a small gift. Alison kept that gift for 37 years. The products may be out of date, but it’s a gift that will never leave her. Body lotions and powders only apply a temporary mask of beauty, but the simple beauty of the moment impacted Alison in a way that will affect tens of thousands of seniors through her charity.
“Now I know what it’s like to open my eyes and see and angel,” a senior gentleman said after receiving a facial.
For Alison, there’s nothing better than enriching the lives of seniors by investing in their physical and emotional self-worth. Every day, she helps seniors see that beauty truly becomes them. “I love this because every day, my father is with me.”
Cosmetics aren’t about color. They are about the smile they put on someone’s face.
Do you support Alison’s vision? Vote for her as L’Oreal Paris’ 2015 Woman of Worth.